• Start: Little Singleton
  • End: Shard Bridge
  • Country: England
  • County: Lancashire
  • Type: Country
  • Nearest pub:
  • Ordnance Survey:
  • Difficulty: Medium
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Keith Carter enjoys the trails by the riverbank from Little Singleton to Shard Bridge beside the River Wyre

The River Wyre rises on the Bowland fells near Marshaw and flows through some of Lancashires best countryside, joining the sea near Fleetwood where the estuary becomes a wide expanse of sandbanks and marshes. There are several notable crossing points of the river including bridges at Garstang, St Michaels, Cartford and the focus of our walk this month, Shard Bridge. For walkers, the long-distance trail known as the Wyre Way, 40-odd miles long, keeps pace with the river.

Spreading the map out to ponder a walk 265that would see the best side of the area between Poulton and the estuary avoiding the built-up areas I decided to start at the crossroads at Little Singleton and walk as far as Shard Bridge returning via Skippool Creek and Little Poulton by field paths. On the day I researched the walk there was only an occasional glimpse of the sun and no incentive to hang about

With my regular companion Jim for company we parked on the triangle just off Pool Foot Lane which cuts down towards the river past the impressive Bankfield Manor. I remember it well from my days with a well-known Blackpool plastics group whose boss lived there and held board meetings in his dining room. It was sold a year or two ago for a rumoured two million. Opposite the Shell Garage is a concealed opening called Occupation Lane and we take this, keeping right where it forks beside Appletree Cottage and heading through a scattered group of chalets to meet the river.

The river is tidal up to St Michaels, the rise and fall evident with the banks exposed at low tide and at high practically overflowing. I remember watching helplessly as a cow which had come down to drink becoming stuck in the mud and sinking slowly until only its neck remained above water. I raised the alarm at the bridge at Cartford and the cow was hauled out by a tractor just in time.

The path along this stretch of the river is soggy where the tide has covered it and is also cut by small channels, easy enough to step across but still capable of tripping you up. To the north the Bowland Fells are seen, while looking downriver the white painted buildings that include the Shard Bridge Inn stand out clearly. Now with a makeover and renamed the Shard Riverside, this is our outward destination today.

As the bridge itself comes into view we reach the road through a reed bed where we put up a couple of snipe which jinked away from us with their characteristic flight. On approaching the road the path sidesteps Toll House where the owner has created a tidy garden with a bench and neatly cut lawn.

The footpath now diverts round it but there is a stone to mark the point where the former toll bridge crossed.

When the new bridge was opened in 1993 it crossed about a hundred and fifty metres downstream and the old bridge which had carried traffic since 1864 was dismantled. Records go back to a reference in documents dated 1330 of a ford here known as Aldwath which in Anglo Saxon means old ford and finds in the area show that it was a crossing for the Romans and probably long before them.

To reach the pub cross the bridge and turn right on Old Bridge Lane. There was once a slipway at the pub and Jim recounted how he had come to a party, parking his aunts Rover 90 on the slipway before joining the revelry. Coming out at closing time the river had risen and the car was under water. The law of unintended consequences had struck again.

If you dont want to visit the pub you can take a tarmac path under the bridge and continue on the river bank on what is now the Wyre Way. The river seems further away and indeed is separated from us by a broad sand bank with a tributary cutting in where Skippool Creek has created a channel. Skippool was the port of Poulton at one time and cargoes of sugar, cotton and timber were landed here. It declined when Fleetwood was developed as a port in the mid-1800s. The old wooden supports you can see slowly disintegrating look as if they could date from about that time.

On reaching some steps go up a bank, turning your back on the creek on an enclosed path and on reaching a stile cross it and turn right. We encountered a dog-walker here whose dog took a liking to us due probably to the sandwiches we were eating and wanted to change its allegiance and it was only with the greatest reluctance that it allowed itself to be dragged away, its owners irritated commands spurring it on.

Our path brings us to a concrete bridge with flood control gates crossing a feeder channel known as Main Dyke. Once across, head left towards some substation buildings beside which is a stile that puts us on the main Fleetwood road opposite the half-timbered River Wyre pub. The road has to be crossed Im afraid, a hazardous undertaking, and across the other side look for a footpath sign saying Little Poulton Lane pointing right next to the bridge.

The path skirts a caravan park and continues alongside the dyke, quite rough walking due to the debris dredged out of the channel and deposited on the path. When you find your way blocked by a hedge, turn right and follow the field edge to a stile. Away to the right you should see an area of extensive glass houses. Enter an enclosed path and plough through the mud to reach the end of Little Poulton Lane with some huge private residences along it.

Where the lane bends take a stile on the left with a finger post saying Garstang Road. Cross a further two stiles then keep to the right hand side of a large field heavily poached by cattle, descending to the busy main road and joining it at a stile opposite a cemetery. Turn left and remain on the footpath which brings you back to the crossroads at Little Singleton.

Although only five miles in length you will feel it in your legs since much of the walk at this time of year involves muddy paths and fields and the sticky riverbank, so be warned.

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